The Cable Guy Has to Pay More Attention to the Boomer Plus Generation
Gotta’ Watch – Back in the early days of television there was what they called live TV (no delay loops) and limited viewing options. Elvis made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show – a glossy vaudeville show – in 1956 to the delight of thousands of hysterical girls across the country. Sullivan enjoyed a 20-year run on the air with a variety of acts on the show and probably didn’t even know why they were sensations at the time.
Let’s state an obvious fact … the traditional broadcast network/cable guy business model is on a slippery slide. Just as the cable guy happily increases his monthly fee for the all-you-can-eat video trough, people are saying “**** you, we’re OTTa (over the top) here.” O.K., folks aren’t really cutting the cord because they still need that Internet connection. What they’re saying is we want our viewing on our terms when we want it, where we want it and our tastes/interests have broadened beyond the mind-numbing stuff you push out for the “average” viewer. We’re all the same, but we’re all different! And now that economical (and getting better) 4K smart TVs are available, our time has come. Oh sure, we won’t change many of our viewing habits but it’s nice to say you have a choice, even if you don’t take it.
Want it All – Give people a choice on how he/she wants to sit back and be entertained and they’ll check all the available blanks; but when they sit down in front of the TV set after a bad day at the office, they’ll grab their smartphone, hit a channel or two and watch whatever is on the screen at the time. Boomers, for the most part, don’t even think twice about it. Last year, according to Nielsen (the folks who track what people watch), said there was a whopping average of 1891 TV channels available to Americans. Despite that rich offering, folks sat down in front of the set and only tuned in an average of 17.5 channels … and Netflix.
While they’re nowhere near 4K ready, more than $20B worth of STBs (set-top boxes) were still sold, according to Futuresource. With an average price of only $74 they’re almost an “oh what-the-heck” buy it when you purchase the TV set. Folks who like to have the freedom of watching shows on their own time schedules (and can figure out how to use them) added a DVR; but with the cable guy offering a delayed viewing option, those sales will peak next year and then decline rapidly. One of the reasons is that there are just too many decent options today and they’re getting better, cheaper and easier to use.
Different Strokes – Each age group has a different first choice option when it comes to being informed/entertained. Even though the TV set remains the poison of choice, younger generations are weaning themselves off the TV set faster and using other options. Of course, if you study the chart above you see who’s leading the switch … Millennials. You know, the younger adults who are working on their careers and busy paying off student loans, starting a family and watching less TV. They grab the news and their entertainment when they can on the TV, their iPad, their iPhone/Galaxy. Now I appreciate the idea behind the show producers and advertisers targeting these people- they’re going to be potential customers for a lot longer than Boomers or Seniors. It sorta’, kinda’ makes sense if you’re in business for the long haul. Well, sorta’… kinda’. But their news and entertainment options are virtually limitless. Catching them with your carefully crafted/tested 30-60 sec TV ad is a lucky chance … at best. Fer gawd sake, go after the easy mark, the one you know is sitting there and has money … the Boomer, the Senior!
Wealth Holders – While Gen X/GenY Millennials are the key marketing targets for most advertisers, it is the Boomer Plus generation that has most of the spending money. And they have grandkids. That’s right, the Boomer Plus crowd not only has most of the money, they also spend it so they shouldn’t be too hard to monetize if the show wrapped around the ad and the ad itself is worth a damn.
First of all, it’s pretty hard to tell a Boomer that he/she is over the hill. They act/feel young, they move into using technology more slowly but they get more involved with it once they’ve arrived. In addition, according to a study by NBC Universal, they spend a whole lot more on home improvements, credit cards, travel and beauty products. They also spend a lot on their kids’ kids. What will be the saving grace for big buck cable bundles is that they’ve been trained since birth that you sit in front of the TV when you want to simply relax and don’t want any heavy thinking. That’s right, 50 plus years of being brainwashed (indoctrinated) that if you want your news, your entertainment, your information; you turn on the TV. They grew up watching Ed Sullivan, The Lone Ranger, Happy Days, Cheers, Charlie’s Angels, Bay Watch, Magnum P.I., pick your favorites. Who didn’t want to be super cool, watch attractive people in action? Yeah, I thought so. And as you know, habits – good and bad – are tough to break. Show developers, networks and cable guys finally get it – O.K., they’re slow and needed the demographics to be shown to them.
Demo Shift – Television advertising is generally targeted at Millennials who are busy working for a living and raising a family. Over the past two years though, the audiences have made a significant shift with the average TV viewer being 54. To harness that audience, many shows are built around older (sometimes recycled) stars and themes. Ironically, it was the Baby Boomers who first led TV networks to cater to younger viewers in the 1960s.
From Day One
They were literally raised in front of the TV. According to Ipsos, Boomers will do their purchasing research online but it’s a TV commercial that gets them thinking about making a purchase. Suddenly, they’re becoming valuable targets because they aren’t especially frugal and are less brand loyal. So why will they be the standard TV/cable offerings greatest potential for saving their money-making machine until they can figure out what tomorrow holds for them? Habit!
Stay the Course – One of the saving graces for cable companies is that it takes a very positive action for people to turn their backs on regular TV habits and effectively move into the Internet- connected OTT arena. Of course, if they keep pushing they’ll make the decision to go all Internet-connected a lot easier. Don’t kid yourself, Boomer and Boomer Plus folks aren’t any happier with their mounting cable bill than their kids or other Millennials. But few of them were willing to make the leap to Aereo when it offered free OTT shows. Of course, after the Supreme Court shut them down and the Patent Office said they couldn’t qualify as a network, the estimated 77,000 adventurers probably wondered why they couldn’t read the writing on the wall. Boomers will grouse about their cable bill every month, even as they begin using their Smart TV to expand their educational, news, entertainment options; but drop the bundle completely and cut back to the cable company’s Internet service? Probably not. Especially when they know exactly where/when to turn for their new favorite shows. The networks and cable guys have “discovered” that annually, the over 50 crowd spends $90B on cars; and by 2017, they will control 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income. Now that they’re suddenly hot targets again, you’re seeing a lot of yesteryear’s stars recycled in shows like NCIS, Blue Blood and others. Some age well. Others not so much! If we want to revisit those folks, we’ll switch over to an hour or two on YouTube. For the rest stick with my new 4K UHD smart TV and UltraFlix, Netflix shows.
British Invasion – When the Beatles started their attack on the U.S., their first stop was the Ed Sullivan Show back in 1964. Like Elvis, they frightened parents and thrilled kids. And look at Sir Paul today, still going strong and attracting audiences across the age spectrum. But for a lot of folks, cutting the cable is a hard habit to break.